There seems to be some misunderstanding about the reading or non reading of marriage banns in our church.
What are banns and why are they read? In the past 100 years or so Christian Churches proclaimed, on three successive Sundays or holy days of obligation during the Divine Liturgy, the fact that certain couples intended to marry. Each church only read the banns for their own church and never read them if the couple intended to marry in another church or denomination.
The purpose of banns was to inform the public of the upcoming wedding in order to determine if any reasons exited why the couple should not marry. Some of the reasons for this could be the fact that one or the other partner was already married or they were closely related. In each case the priest said something to the effect, “If anyone knows any reason why this couple should not marry, please report this to the parish priest immediately.”
As was the case in the last century, the publication of the banns presumed that everyone knew about everybody’s life and business. Today, it is very possible that many people in a parish do not know each other. In that case the reading of banns is ineffective.
In some countries, for example Canada, one could get married using the banns system or one could get a marriage license, in which case the government would investigate the couple for any impediments to the marriage.
InAustralia, the Catholic Church has not dealt with banns for about 70 years. Our Canon law, published in 1990, eliminated any canons pertaining to banns. There was no legal need to announce banns.
Old traditions die hard. InUkrainebanns are read in some churches and not in others. There are perhaps 10 to 15 thousand people in any one parish alone and neighbours hardly know everyone there. In Lviv for instance a church could have 10 to 20 marriages in one week. Could you imagine how long it would take to read 10 to 20 banns in a church on any given day?
Banns do serve some purpose outside the legal obligation which no longer exists. They inform the faithful that certain people are getting married and thereby reveal a certain life within a parish. It would seem that we are among the very few churches who still read banns. It is clear that they do not have to be read and, probably in time, we will stop doing this as have other churches.
I would not tell any priest to read or not read banns. It seems that each parish will have to discuss this on a local level if they want to do so or not. The publication of banns is supposed to be a positive thing not a source of ill will or ill feelings. As we discuss this matter further, the Eparchy will have to reach a consensus and make a decision. However, it is very important that we know what is involved before we start the discussion.
This post is also available in: Ukrainian